February 10, 1969
Patrick got out of the car and blew into his hands, rubbing them together. The snow was no longer falling, but the chill in the air was quite severe. He didn't want to remain outdoors any longer than necessary. He wanted to get right inside and get a fire going in the hearth and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea.
He crossed to the passenger side and opened the car door, offering his hand. "Mrs. Turner," he greeted with a goofy grin.
Shelagh's smile was so radiant as she accepted his hand. His mind swirled with the other times he'd seen her look at him that way. It was more common now than it used to be, of course. But there were particular moments, like this one, where the vision of her loving smile were burned into his memory.
Their first Christmas morning together. He had surprised her with a few rather extravagant presents, including their honeymoon itinerary and a few things for her to wear on that honeymoon. She had been ecstatic at all of it. The ship passage across the channel and the train to Paris and the three weeks in a hotel in the heart of the city were perfect for them, he knew, despite the large dip into his savings. But at his age, after all it had taken to get to this point with Shelagh, this was exactly what they deserved. He wanted to give her everything he possibly could, and this was making quite a good start to it. And, of course, the beautiful lacy things he'd bought for her had made her blush, but he'd been rewarded with a rather sensual kiss and that radiant smile, so he knew he'd done well.
On New Year's Eve, just two weeks before their wedding, they had chosen to politely decline Tim's invitation to a party at his place with Mike and their friends. Patrick and Shelagh had agreed that the boys should be able to have fun without the parents hanging about. Tim, a few months after things had gotten rather regular between them all, had begun to call Shelagh 'Mum' without any discussion of the issue. It had rather shocked her at first, and it had been quite a surprise to Patrick as well, but it seemed quite the most natural thing. Mike still called them Patrick and Shelagh, which made sense under the circumstances. But rather than ringing in the new year with the boys, Patrick and Shelagh had opted to have a quiet night at home together. And as midnight approached, the BBC was on television counting down as an old jazz record played on the phonograph, and Patrick swayed with his lovely fiancée in his arms. They kissed as the clock struck twelve. Shelagh had pulled back with that smile on her face that never failed to make him feel like the world was bright and all his dreams had come true.
His dreams did come true in earnest, however, on their wedding day. It was mid-January and Oxford was covered in a fresh dusting of snow. Everything was white and clean and glistening and beautiful. They had spent the night apart, for the sake of tradition, so Patrick woke up alone for the first time since Shelagh had begun sharing his bed six months earlier. He was staying at home while Shelagh had spent the night in Tim's unused bedroom. The boys were so sweet about helping them both get ready for the big day. Tim had helped Patrick choose Shelagh's engagement ring and he'd also helped Shelagh choose her wedding dress. The boys took turns going to and from each house to help them both get ready. Patrick took his own car to the church with Tim while Mike drove Shelagh in his car.
The wedding had been small but lovely. Neither of them had much family or too many friends, but the neighbors and various people from the hospital who were important to them had all arrived. One guest in particular, however, had traveled a greater distance to be there with them. Patrick looked out upon the small crowd as he waited at the altar for Shelagh to come up the aisle when he spotted a wimple. He had not realized that Shelagh had invited Sister Julienne, but he was ever so glad she had. The two of them shared a knowing smile before the wedding march began to play.
In that moment, the entire world fell away. His beautiful Shelagh appeared wearing a gown more stunning than he could have never imagined, looking the absolute picture of a bride. Her hair was down and curled around her shoulders in the way he always found so stunning. And the whole time she walked, she had her eyes locked onto his through her veil, and her smile was unlike anything he'd ever seen before.
Patrick had barely paid any attention during the ceremony. He repeated words when told to, and the whole thing was over before he knew it. When he and Shelagh each said 'I do,' he felt his heart do flips inside his chest. And then there she was, after he lifted her veil, smiling that same radiant smile as he kissed her. The first time he had kissed her as his wife.
Afterward, when they had greeted their guests in the reception, he overheard Sister Julienne congratulating his new wife. "My dear Shelagh, I have never seen you so happy. I think it's very clear you've made the right choice," she had said.
"Yes, Sister. Thank you so much for being here and for everything you've always done to support me, through good times and bad."
The two women embraced, and Patrick had thanked Sister Julienne for making the trip, though she had to leave shortly thereafter in order to catch her train back to Poplar.
Everything about the wedding and the wedding night and the honeymoon had been perfect beyond belief. The snow had made Paris so magical, and it was made all the better for being off-season for tourists. There were very few crowds anywhere, and they had practically the whole run of the Louvre and Notre Dame and everywhere else. One day they took a trip out to Giverny to see Monet's garden. He'd not painted it in the snow, but the frost on the trees and icicles on the Japanese bridges had been a vision. Versailles, too, had been outstanding to see in the winter. The most beautiful of all, however, was seeing Shelagh adorned in pale blue lace by the light of the fire in their hotel room. As much as Patrick might have wanted to make love to her on the floor by the fire, her back and his knee wouldn't allow for such things. The bed was a more than suitable substitute for them.
And now, after all of that, they were finally home again. The boys had been looking after the house for them, so Patrick had no worries that anything would be amiss. Hopefully they'd also left something for supper, as the travel had been rather exhausting and Patrick did not want Shelagh to have to do too much cooking and he certainly did not want to have to go to the market.
These mundane concerns went out of his mind, however, as they carried their suitcases to the front door. Patrick turned the key in the lock and paused after opening it. "If you could put that down, please," he requested.
Shelagh looked at him in confusion. "Patrick, the snow," she pointed out.
"Just for a moment." And really, the snow wouldn't seep into the cases that quickly. He demonstrated by putting his own suitcase down beside the door.
With a resigned sigh, Shelagh followed suit.
"Thank you," he said, smiling. And without further ado, he bent down and put one arm under her knees and the other at her back and lifted her into his arms to carry her through the door.
"Patrick!" she shrieked. "You'll hurt yourself, put me down!"
He just laughed. "You're a slight little thing. And I'm not going to be running around with you. But I'll not let our age detract from the tradition of carrying my bride across the threshold," he insisted. He walked across the foyer and into the sitting room with Shelagh in his arms. He gently deposited her down on the sofa. She had calmed down by then, and he pressed a soft kiss to her lips. "And now I'll go get our suitcases out of the snow."
Shelagh got up to follow him and assist, but the telephone rang. "I'll get it," she told him.
As he moved everything inside and closed the door behind them, he could hear her in the kitchen on the phone.
"Hello, Timothy!…Yes…Oh my goodness…Yes, of course, we'll be right over. Give us about twenty minutes. In the meantime, boil some water and get lots of towels. We'll be there soon." She hung up and called out, "Patrick!"
He hurried over to her. "Yes, what is it? Was that Tim? Is everything alright?"
"Yes, that was Timothy. He's lucky we'd just gotten home. You remember that nice neighbor of his, Mrs. Pearce?"
Patrick nodded, recalling quiet brunette who he'd met a few times when over with Tim and Mike. "Her husband is in the army, isn't he?"
"Yes. And he's away. And she's pregnant, and her waters just broke on Timothy's kitchen floor."
That was not what he'd expected at all. "Did he call for an ambulance for her?"
"The snow has closed some of the roads. The ambulance wait is over an hour. We can get there quicker than that, even if we can't drive the whole way. And between us, we can help much better than anyone."
"You're right," Patrick agreed. The weariness of his age and the full day of travel was suddenly erased. There was a patient in need of their help. "Let me get my bag."
Shelagh hurried to get her own medical supplies and he rushed into the surgery to fill his bag with the things he'd need. They met by the front door. Their suitcases were left unopened in the foyer.
Patrick drove as quickly as he could safely manage in the weather. Unfortunately, there were road closures that forced them to abandon the car on a side street. Luckily they were less than a quarter mile away from Timothy's house at that point. He and Shelagh carried their things and trudged through the snow the last few blocks. They arrived just in time, as the wind had picked up and the snow was starting to come down again.
They entered the house without knocking, as usual. They dusted themselves off from the snow and hurried in. "Tim?" Patrick called out.
"In the bedroom," his son called back.
Mike appeared, looking frantic and frazzled for the first time since Patrick had met him. "Thank god you're here!" He led them back to where Mrs. Pearce was lying in the bed, letting out a mighty scream.
Shelagh transitioned into the perfect midwife without missing a beat. "Hello, Mrs. Pearce. I'm Mrs. Turner. I'm a midwife. My husband here is a doctor. We're going to help deliver your baby today," she said soothingly.
Patrick realized that was the first time he'd ever heard Shelagh introduce herself as Mrs. Turner. And even under the circumstances, it warmed his heart.
From there, however, there was no time for many pleasantries. The labor was coming very quickly, and they'd arrived just in time. Patrick and Shelagh worked together, telling the boys what to bring them and how to help position Mrs. Pearce for delivery. And within two hours, Patrick was handing clamps and scissors to Shelagh as she cut the umbilical cord and wrapped the newborn in one of Timothy's towels.
"Mrs. Pearce, you have a perfect baby girl," Shelagh said, placing him in the woman's arms.
The new mother was smiling and laughing and crying with exhaustion. It was something Patrick and Shelagh had seen many, many times before. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you all so much. Oh I wish Harry were here!"
"When does your husband come home for his leave?" Patrick asked. He was still sitting at the end of the bed, waiting to deliver the placenta.
"Next week, actually. He's just missed the birth. He'll be so disappointed. I know he wanted to do better this time around. He's got two children from his first marriage. He missed their births, too."
"Well by the time your Harry comes home, your daughter will be all clean and happy, and you'll both be properly recovered for Harry to see you," Patrick said gently. "But for now, why don't you let Mrs. Turner look over the baby and clean her off. We've still got the afterbirth to deal with down here."
In the end, Patrick and Shelagh stayed with Mrs. Pearce and her new baby for a few more hours, making sure everyone was healthy and happy and bundled them both up to go back to their own home. They helped Tim and Mike clean things up after a bit of tea and cake before they left, promising to come check on the Pearces the next morning.
The roads had been cleared by the evening, allowing Patrick to drive them home without incident. They got back inside and both practically collapsed on the sofa.
"I think we've done rather well, considering," Shelagh noted.
"Considering we woke up today in Paris and every muscle in my body is in agony? Yes, I think we did fine."
Shelagh laughed lightly. "I've missed getting to deliver babies with you. It was just like it used to be. Only better."
He hummed in agreement. "Doctor and Nurse Turner."
"I think our first day back home has given us a bit of insight. Perhaps that's what we can do. Private obstetrics. House calls, like we did in Poplar for the NHS, but through your surgery practice," she suggested.
"I think that's a wonderful idea, darling," he said. "But let's talk about it in the morning. After we unpack. I can hardly think about anything right now."
"Alright," she agreed. "We'd better make a move towards bed before we're stuck here."
He chuckled. "Yes, alright."
The two of them hauled themselves up and down the hall to bed. And Patrick smiled, realizing that this was indeed the first day of what would be the rest of his life with Shelagh by his side. It had taken them years to get to this point, but really, it was far better late than never.